World

How the U.S. Can Help Cuba Protesters

People shout slogans against the government during protests against and in support of the government in Havana, Cuba, July 11, 2021. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

Whittaker Chambers wrote that every communist has “accepted the fact that Terror is an instrument of policy, right if the vision is right, justified by history, enjoined by the balance of forces in the social wars of this century.”

He also said that every communist has heard the screams brought about by their consequentialist modus operandi.

In Cuba since Sunday, those screams have been drowned out by the voices of brave men and women, tired of the Terror inflicted by the butchers who called themselves liberators — inspired to not just drown out the screams of their mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons, but to bring about their permanent end.

The protests spread spontaneously around the country. They were notably leaderless (most opposition leaders are in jail or in exile), nonviolent, and large. This sort of mass action in Cuba is unheard of, and clearly caught the government by surprise. The only thing remotely comparable were the Maleconazo demonstrations in 1994, although they were very localized in Havana and quickly put down (although tens of thousands of Cubans fled to the U.S. in rafts). The incredibly courageous Ladies in White, wives and female relatives of the jailed and disappeared, have constantly protested over the years, but they numbered in the dozens.

Predictably, the communist regime has tried to blame the United States for instigating the uprising, absurd propaganda that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken feebly dismissed as a “grievous mistake.”

A more common explanation in the press of the explosion of protests was that people were angry at the government’s COVID-19 response. That response has, indeed, been sorely lacking, given the dilapidated state of the country. But the demonstrations in the streets were about much more than that.

For more than 60 years, Cubans have been fleeing their beautiful island for the safety and opportunity of the United States because they have been deprived of them in their homeland. When Fidel Castro took power in 1959, he promised them prosperity, equality, and freedom. He gave them the opposite. The regime he founded has only ever presided over a stultifying command economy that has kept Cubans poor, all the while operating a brutal police state that murders or throws dissenters in prison. Castro and his cronies made out like bandits. At the time of his death in 2016, the dictator was estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The latest dictator, who took over from Fidel’s brother Raúl, President Miguel Díaz-Canel, has encouraged his supporters to confront the protesters in the streets and promised that he is “willing to resort to anything” to keep the “revolution” in power.

It’s not idle talk. He has unleashed the so-called Black Berets of the interior ministry to beat people up and issued dog-whistle calls for security forces to take off their uniforms and pose as counter-protesters taking the fight to the anti-government demonstrators. The regime has an awful lot of informers and policemen, and no one should take its oppressive capacity lightly — suppressing dissent is its core competency.

What can we do? First, speak the truth.

To his credit, President Biden issued a statement on Monday hailing the “clarion call for freedom” by the protesters and calling on “the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment.” That’s a fine sentiment, although it’d be even better if Biden acknowledged the simple truth that this communist government — like any of its kind — can never represent or provide for its people.

There are more substantive action items to explore as well. The protests spread so quickly because word about them got around instantly on the Internet. Predictably the government has shut down Internet access. Willing companies operating in Cuba should be, if at all possible, enlisted to work toward circumventing this shutdown, and the U.S. should boost the broadcast power of Radio Marti.

We should keep up the diplomatic pressure. The administration should instruct its representatives at the United Nations to make raising the regime’s human-rights violations a priority there. It should make clear that Cuba will remain a State Department–designated state sponsor of terrorism for as long as the Communist Party remains in power, and that even further lifting of sanctions — an Obama-era initiative that only served the interests of the regime — is completely off the table.

In response to the coming crackdown, we should reduce both U.S. and Cuban Embassies to the chargé d’affaires level, and reduce the range of activities of Cuban diplomats in Washington and New York to 25 miles (the U.N. Embassy is a nest of spies, and there’s no reason to allow Cuban diplomats to travel the country giving anti-U.S. speeches at universities).

The protests are the first significant sign that the 60-year pall of fear in Cuba is beginning to lift. Now, it is the mafia in charge of the country that has to be afraid. They will surely do their worst to re-establish control. Let them know the world is watching and we know — and will do everything reasonable in our power to support — the rightful rulers of Cuba, its people. Cuba libre.

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